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Monday, December 30, 2013

A New Year's Eve, A New Year's' Day and Same ol', Same ol'

Well its Monday, December 30th..  Less than 48 hours before the start of a new year for those looking forward to such things..

Before we begin, as we stated on Friday, we passed the 4 million views mark over the weekend.. very special considering we do not advertise so its all due to you and word of mouth..

Thank you.

Wouldn't it be interesting to take a time machine back to Dec 31, 1913 and observe all those Europeans in places such as Paris, Berlin and Brussels celebrating New Years' 1914 without a care in the world and utterly oblivious that six months later, their continent would be at war.

~ New Years Day postcard-- 1914 from Denmark

Or all those zany-crazy New Yorkers and other urbanites around the county getting utterly wasted on Dec 31st, 1928, completely ignorant to the fact that 10 months later most would lose their life savings in the crash and start a 12 yr Depression..

Definitely be interesting to see how those same people celebrated on Dec 31, 1930..

So many people are going to celebrate New Years Eve this year like things can only get better..

Its more our nature at A&G we admit to treat New Years Eve as a time of mourning and reflection...
We know this moment in time those we care about are here on Earth..  The relationships we have with others solidly intact and we don't naively assume things get better just because its time to purchase a new calendar.

And our nation while in a very bad place financially and run by an incompetent could be worse and we know at this moment the cracks in the economic dam have not yet caused a full breach..

Oh alas!  So much we could write about of substance but honestly we're not sure most readers are receptive yet..

That's really the bitch of the holidays.. This 7-14 day period at the end of the year where nothing of relevance matters to anyone outside of themselves and the news is either fluff or in yearly review mode.
The President is in Hawaii with family working on his tan, surfing or whatever.. Everyone in Congress is home with their families, both legitimate and illegitimate..

No one is actually doing anything constructive which really isn't a change from when they all are back in Washington..

And really few to none care because for the last five years, most have been well insulated from it all, which really is a shame..

It is a shame because only squeaky wheels get greased and as long as people have cash to piss away on eccentricities, cards to borrow from or worse, blind hope for a better tomorrow, nothing substantive is ever addressed and there's no pressure on politicians to fix anything..
Do you think medicare, Social Security and other forms of public assistance that tens of millions depend upon monthly for survival today just 'happened'?

It took the Great Depression.. It took massive suffering i.e. 25% unemployment and breadlines and desolate cities with boarded up buildings to force-push government to pass such legislation.

And that's why its been so frustrating that the government with the Fed in particular have been allowed to prop everything up for so long which only delays and ultimately increases the pain.

Take weather events as a comparison..
No hurricane is ever take seriously when it is out in the ocean somewhere with 4-6 days before landfall..  Ask those who dealt with Katrina in New Orleans how serious they took the weather reports prior when the skies were sunny n' bright

Those who inhabited the "Chocolate City" as its mayor at the time referred to it, really didn't want to be bothered with preparation and so many people living there were so poor, they didn't have the means to escape even with seriousness taken to warnings.

But which is better.. a quick moving Hurricane or a very slow moving one?
The quick moving storm hits the coast fast, can feel a bit traumatic sitting in the midst of one and then 12-24 hrs later, its gone and the cleanup and rebuilding can begin to take place.

The slow moving storms..those are the bitch..  They move gradually and sure they give people plenty of time to ignore... um.. we mean prepare.. and then once it hit lands, it just moves at a crawl..

The winds just as excessive.. the water flooding worse than a fast-mover and finally when its gone, it takes two full days and usually damage is greater and lingering.

No one wants to live through a hurricane but better a fast one than a slow..
And what happened in late 2008... Rrrrr!!

We still get SO G-D angry over what those two piece of bleeps Bush and Obama did to prevent the quick hurricane from happening so to protect the super wealthy and all those shits whose life savings were in the market..

Both Presidents-- utter bastards without the slightest clue or care to the general populace and the vast majority who will take the financial brunt when things do collapse quickly upon itself..

And if that is upsetting and the notion to defend one over the other is a strong urge in you, we respectfully and sincerely suggest you take off your partisan spectacles and step away from the R v D game that is playing you..

They were/are both Shit.  McCain and Romney too..  And yes Hillary too..
~ Times Square , New Years Eve 1941

And now with nothing fixed or even an attempt made at real job creation, and the middle class continually decimated (and its only getting worse) 2014 is going to be a very brutal year and be a terrible shock for many..

This will be the beginning of the slow hurricane.

We predict the partial government shutdown which was given a temporary 3mth reprieve will resume in late January with a flourish and be there for some time..   This time, there will be no elderly WWII vets visiting their Memorial while in 20 deg temps to embarrass anyone into compromise
~ New Years Eve, 1944 Norman Rockwell magazine cover

We also predict that the can-kicked debt ceiling fight in February will ultimately cause a lot of chaos particularly in the market because at least immediately there will be no motivation for either side to compromise.  

2014 is mid-terms and both sides feel a protracted fight will stimulate their party bases to donate money to the cause and get out to vote come November.

People do not get out of their homes to vote out of happiness and contentment.  Its done from anger and/or fear.

In addition this nation is due for another recession.
~ Quite a different world lived in 9mths before 9/11

Of course we've argued for many years we're still in one but recessions officially hit economies in 5-7 year cycles..

Even the Great Depression of the 30's wasn't 12 straight years of economic gloom..  There were periods of improvement then a recession would hit and cause everything to get back to another reset..

Also the Fed can't keep these low interest rates forever.. and even if they can, the banks, credit cards and mortgage lenders will continue raising on their end to increase profits and that is bad news for those who want things and don't have cash to buy outright.

So we don't feel optimistic or excited about 2014 and have no hope things will get better with the same people in charge of things in 2013 still running the show..
And we're not going to celebrate any ball dropping on New Years Eve.

We are going to be home, engaged with those we care about and who matter and just quietly enjoy a Tuesday night while taking stock of the good of 2013 and feeling grateful that any 'bad' could be far worse..

We will return Thursday or Friday with the next posting, then resume a normal schedule starting Mon. Jan 6th..

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Video: A Christmas Present or Two.. or Ten

Normally we post weekdays only but a loyal reader sent us the following YouTube video, located below from Conan O' Brien's talk show which while is funny, also left our collective jaws drop a bit and shake our heads... (link provided for those using iPad)

For we knew the local media was utter fluff but one can still find themselves surprised how low on the totem pole of significance it is...

We also included for anyone interested, a condensed version of a real local TV newscast in late November from Bismarck, North Dakota where Will Ferrell plays his Ron Burgundy character from 'Anchorman 2 ...

The clip isn't Ha-ha funny but just interesting and surreal

And a bonus clip..  Mark Wahlberg presenting weather and traffic while on a local Philadelphia TV station last January taking things as "serious" as obviously the station when it presents information to its viewers..

Whatever it takes to keep viewers watching one guesses...

Next posting will be sometime tomorrow (Mon) and at worse, Tuesday..

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Christmas Wrap-Up..10 more days of Christmas, Deals Galore and Nervous Merchants

Christmas is over..  and what fun that was..

Or is it?   More on that later..

We can't honestly remember much of the 25th but we're sure it was fun..

We know.. that is Sooo much a 'drunk person' type answer but we swear.. not one sip of hooch; not one bit blotto..

It just didn't stand out much in a positive way.. felt too much like a 'Wednesday'
Something about a specific day being hyped n' Hyped n' HYPED for weeks n' Weeks 'n WEEKS and then pretty much culminating in a 24-36 hour period

In actuality for those who either celebrate the religious or festive aspect of Christmas, the holiday is not meant to be celebrated in one day but rather in 12 i.e. the "Twelve" Days of Christmas..

People often forget than in their rush to get to next Tues night to celebrate the 60-90 seconds which signify New Years' Eve.

But we didn't..  And after a Christmas filled mostly with sleep and napping, the real fun began:  the post Christmas sales.
If anyone tries to tell you this holiday season was another retail success story, they are absolute liars.

Beyond the fact that corporate retailer basically sabotaged themselves by starting Black Friday on Thursday and treated 'Cyber Monday' as a week-long event...

 According to CNBC, shopping traffic for the week ending Dec. 22—which included the crucial final weekend before Christmas—was down 21.2% year over year.

The first two weeks of December saw double-digit decreases, which trailed a 4 % decline over Black Friday weekend..  In-store sales also fell 3.1% from the same week in 2012
And the retail shopping trackers will of course revise the stats at the last moment to show positives..  And the retailers will blame it all on weather as if 2013 was the first year that ever saw snowfall or cold temperatures in December..

And worse comes to worse, they'll say not to forget the day after Christmas shopping which is a 'big' day when all those gift cards get used..  etc... etc...

We can't say for certain that Dec 26th is a kick-ass day for the merchants but it sure is for the smart Christmas shopper...

Because we knew we'd be celebrating a 12 day Festival, we did our Christmas decoration shopping on Thursday..  Got everything 50% off..
Price was so good, we bought not one.. not two.. but three Christmas trees...  Some to enjoy now and Christmas 2014.. and at least one or two to sell this coming November at 25% off and still make a little something...

We stocked up on everything.. Trees, lights, wrapping paper, ornaments, etc..

Its funny.. when we went to Wal Mart late Monday evening the 23rd we compiled a list of everything we wanted and had we purchased it then, we would have paid 100% the retail price.

Two days later and every single thing we wanted was still there and saved a bundle..  We're sure Wal-Mart still made a profit but it certainly wasn't much..
And if that's what the retailers are hoping for to salvage this holiday season, they are genuinely going to be in a world of hurt.

Its common for stores to overstock with merchandise but this is really the first Christmas season since the 2008 crash where the lack of finances are really starting to catch up to people..

Can't tell you how many people we knew who had to wait till literally the last day or so before Christmas to do their purchasing because that's when the bonus check or last paycheck arrived.

And goodness knows the stores tried all the tricks.. the Buy 17, get one 10% off games..  The 12-20 week layaway plans..  The 'Free shipping when you spend a gazillion dollars' deals..
The problem with people is in terms of gift giving, they celebrate Christmas on the wrong day.   On the 25th, celebrate the birth of Jesus if that's your faith..  

But the presents for kith, kin and the kiddies should be done on the 27th if people had a nugget of practicality in their cabezas.

Yes we know.. we know.. the presents symbolize the gifts the 3 Wise Men presented upon the discovery of the birth of Jesus..

That's why Christmas morning you give each other the 'gift' of love, respect, inclusion in your life and opening your arms and hearts to those you normally wouldn't bother thinking about the rest of the time..
The Superman DVDs and Duck Dynasty posters can be given later..

So who are the retail 'winners' and 'losers'?

Well.. honestly who really cares unless you own stock in those businesses..

We do know Target suffered from its bungling of protecting its credit and debit card security data..  We visited our local Target on Friday night, December 20th around 7p..  The parking lot was 1/4th empty...

We had to return some items.. there was no wait.
Sure was a wait to get on the phone to cancel those debit cards though..  We were on hold for 85 minutes late Friday afternoon.. This was after wasting an hour at the local bank opening a new checking acct to protect funds from possibly being stolen from the data breach..

But we were lucky.. family members we spoke with were on hold for literally two full hours..

That weekend Target apologized by giving 10% off everything..  Did that work.. did it bring back shoppers?   Possibly but for every $1 million in merchandise it sold, it took a loss of $100k ($50k for RedCard holders)

And the lawsuits and class actions are just forming..
But as to who 'won' or 'lost'.. who cares?  You'll know a business lost when it closes its doors, ends its lease early and/or files for bankruptcy thus making your gift cards to that business effectively worthless.

JC Penney is in a world of hurt..  Sears/K-Mart as well.. Will they survive 2014?  Who knows..

The sales this year not counting holiday closeouts were pretty pitiful and even more controlled and manipulated than ever before...

But that for us is a worry for another day.. time to decorate the tree, wrap the presents and celebrate Days 3-5 of the Christmas season..
And Day 6 i.e. Monday is looking to be a real Doozy...

Thanks to your continued loyal support, A&G will hit the 4 million page views mark by early Monday morning..   For a 100% free, non-advertisement site the achievement is simply monumental

What a wonderful Christmas gift you've given us at A&G....

So early thank yous and see you all on Monday :)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

From us at A&G to you.. Some special gifts for Christmas

This Christmas we at A&G decided to give our readers some gifts..

Not physical, tangible presents or gift cards.. Sawwy..   We are actually going to give you something much better..

The gift of Inspiration..

Below are a few different videos we discovered the other night where people (some famous, some not-quite) are talking about what we like to call matters of consequence...
If you take the time to watch some or all of them, we believe at the very least it will stimulate a spark of inspiration to perhaps look at where you are in life (wherever that may be) and make the personal changes or adjustments to allow you to live a more fulfilling life.

We believe this is so important in today's America where the economics of the land are so unstable and the "Haves" are stealing more and more from the "Once Haves"..   One must be truly open and flexible toward personal change.

**  We noticed the videos don't show up on iPad so we'll provide links for those unable to pull it up-- it will send you to YouTube and simply come back to the page when done..  Hopefully not too inconvenient for you all..

~ The first video we feel is vital to watch and understand.  Philosopher Alain De Botton talks about status anxiety and why the question of what one does for a living, what he perfectly calls "job snobbery" is very destructive to the human psyche of those with purer souls..  (video is 2 min)

~ The next video is of Henry Rollins.. Some may know who he is, some may not..  That's not important.  Here he talks about his life..  The coulda and woulda' beens had he not had the courage to pursue his dreams..  And he admits he benefited from a little luck along the way  (video is 7min)

~ Next video is from philosopher Slavoj Žižek who explains correctly in our view that 'happiness' is an illusion; a myth and the goal in life should not be to be "happy" but to be productive and Interesting.  (video is 2 min)

~ Lastly is an interesting video where magician Penn Jillette of 'Penn & Teller' is talking about essentially his time on Celebrity Apprentice and how it sucks willpower which he describes not as a character trait or quality, but just part of the ego.

In other words when the ego is stifled and by extension one's willpower to succeed or overcome obstacles, the human spirit is stifled with it.. (video is 6 min)

We are all born with a spark of personal greatness.  Some of you reading that statement may disagree but we assert its the truth.. Over time, that spark is attempted to be extinguished by outside forces- school, the system, family and/or friends..

And when its gone, it can be very difficult to re-ignite.

We don't know if the videos above will have made a dent in anyone life, dare say to provide an 'Eureka!' moment..
But that's ultimately what A&G is about when you get beyond the economic and financial news we report.. A continual effort to ignite or kindle that inner-spark that so many consciously and unconsciously seek to extinguish in others..

We wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and will be back at the end of the week either Thurs or Friday..

Monday, December 23, 2013

Poem: 'Twas' Two Days Before Christmas...'

Twas Two Days Before Christmas
(An original A&G Poem)

Twas' two days before Christmas
And all through the mall
Seen the hustle n' bustle of shopping
To make up for dead sales this fall.

And the stores are aglow
With sales signs as far as eye can see
The most popular one being
'Buy 3, Get 1 Free'

Stores doing all they can do
To attract that foot traffic in.
And see all those customers
Rush forth to the bargain bin.

And all that delicious money generated,
Melodious register 'cha-chings'
Let us hope no more credit card numbers
Are stolen by syndicate Asian rings.

And those Corporate CEOs
Ready for a good night sleep
Ordering their chain stores open all-nite long.
God help those workers who utter a peep.

For there's merchandise to be pushed
And lots o' selling to be done.
And who cares if an employee shift ends
When shining bright is the sun.

And the local media assign reporters
To exclaim retail sales toppled previous year..
And to create the frenzy of an 'event'
"Goodness, you just gotta come down here!"

But really few have any serious money to spend;
So many dependent on that bonus check.
Earned in a year of mindless toil
And spent in a fraction of a sec.

And ultimately day turns to night to day..
And minimum wage workers quickly restock
Gotta get all this merchanise out of inventory..
Gotta sell the schlock.

Before one knows it, its Christmas Eve
And the stores finally close for real
And everyone waddles out the exits
Thinking of the Christmas Eve meal..

And now the mall is all is quiet and calm
This peaceful Christmas day and night
Before everything reopens early morning 26th
When Chaos rekindles its flame abright.

With endless returns and exchanges
And discount upon discount upon the crap.
'Real tree with broken limbs 85% off'?.. Sold!
Gotta love the sight of a sap buying a sap.

And the life of the mall then meanders on
Progressing nervously into the next quarter.
But that's a poem for another time.
To dwell on that troubled 'water'

Christmas is a spirit in the heart
Which transcends simply one day a year.
So lets take solitary joy or bear with the kin
As we seek out to enjoy some X-Mas Cheer!

~ Written 12/23/2013 by "Ants & Grasshoppers"; All rights reserved

Friday, December 20, 2013

Uncompromising Convictions and Freedom to think Foolishly

Yesterday yours truly ordered a book on Amazon called 'The Brick Bible' which is the retelling of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible using a graphic novel visual format with Legos so to make the Bible more visually understandable for those who may have trouble reading directly.

Before purchasing, I looked at the reviews.. People either loved it or abhorred it..  They thought the book was a fresh and unique re-telling of the bible that those young and old would understand and appreciate...

Or a blasphemous exercise written by an Atheist with an anti-scripture agenda.
Pretty interesting how polarizing a book with Lego pieces can be.

But this post is not an endorsement or free commercial for 'The Brick Bible'.  We're not connected to the book and do not economically benefit from its sales.

Rather its to demonstrate the mindset of people      

One either thinks the Bible is the literal word of God and not open to any form of interpretation or critical discussion, or one treats it with the same gravitas as one would a book of fables.
People are going to love/admire whom they wish and the closer that person or entity is to their heart, the less open one will be to criticism...

Yours truly admittedly being no different.

A family member once asked who I admired in history.  It might have been that famous 'Name 3 people in history you'd invite to dinner' conversation starter.  My choices were poo-poo'd snobbishly and we haven't spoken since..

This mindset also extends beyond person and into country...
No one wants to really objectively look at one's nation in terms of his social or military history or publicly acknowledge weakness particularly on the economic front.

Its simply not how people particularly in the Western world are educated to think and react.

Take for a moment all the social injustices done to black people in the US over this nation's history..

Very easy for people to denounce the Confederate flag and seek to trash every aspect of the beautiful South in the process while revising history to make those who fought for the cause (Robert E Lee is always excluded) into monsters...
And yet...

What government's Constitution in 1787 allowed the slave trade to continue for 20yrs after the document was signed?  What government's Constitution officially made blacks 3/5ths a person for taxation purposes, then spent the next 80 years making one Compromise after another to protect slavery's existence?

It wasn't the nation who flew the Stars n Bars..  (** Historical aside: today Dec 20th is the 153rd Anniversary of South Carolina seceding)

Who's Supreme Court passed the Dred Scott verdict in 1856 where a slave entering free soil was still to be treated a slave, and voted in 1898 (Plessy v Ferguson) for the legalization of the concept of 'separate but equal', the basis for Jim Crow?

It wasn't the Confederacy.. they had been extinct for 33 years...
And where was the modern Klan formed back in the 1890s?   Illinois.. Hmm didn't they fight for the Union?  And in 1920s there were so many people who were openly members, the Klan had a big ol' get-together and march in Washington DC

But I thought that was the Capital of the Union?

And all those racial riots throughout the last century.. the killings and lynchings.. 34 individual race riots in 1919 alone... where did they take place mostly?   Cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, New York City, Detroit, Los Angeles..

Those aren't backwoods southern redneck hick towns.. Are they?

Stars n Bars.. "Ohh, Racist to the core"..  Stars n Stripes?  "How dare you!!"
Its hard to combat 2,160 days of K-12 educational indoctrination folks

And presently on the economic front, if there are problems with finding good jobs and the overall slow-death of the middle class, then it Must be that opposing political party..  Those gridlockers. and obstructionists.. Oh if only..

Or its due to "Big Government" or taxes being too high

One genuinely mis-informed opinion after another.
Some people will never allow themselves to see how corporations and the overall concept of globalization have completely decimated not only the US economy but really most Western economies around the world.. And how both Dems and Reps are their whores...

Populaces told to educate themselves and get into insane amounts of debt which the governments themselves profit off of, then at the end of the tunnel, little hope of a true future.

This has always been the M.O. of business when it comes to hiring.. play one group off another to lower wages and maximize profits..

Back in the early 19th century, the businesses would hire immigrants at pennies a day because the native born dared to want to be paid nickel, all the while bitching that the Southern plantation owner had the advantages because he didn't have to pay anything..
~  Yes, those Northern industrialists sure treated their workers well..

Of course the slave owner Did have to pay to feed, clothe and house the slave as well as provide medical care to endure their investment wasn't productive or die off.   The Northerner could just fire an immigrant and replace with another..

Broken or torn limb from socket.. or other machinery calamity?  Ehh.. next!

Then after the Civil War, the free blacks would work cheaper than the immigrants so they were sought out and hired in masse which was a major reason for so many riots and racial friction especially between blacks and Irish..

Fast forward to the 20th century, women entered the workplace in droves during both world wars and worked for less then men which made them keepers (as long as they didn't need maternity leave) and now men had to take less $$ to keep what they had..
And now the thing is outsourcing..  Why pay an American $10/hr to sew a shirt when someone in Sri Lanka or Cambodia will do so for $10/month?

And no one in political power wishes to do anything to right the wrong and in turn make a dent to fix this economy.

So people will keep believing as they do..  That those in office are trying to fix things..  That the Fed really is trying to lower unemployment..  That everything is either back to normal or will be soon enough..

And in a perverse way that's what makes America great..

The freedom to be a fool.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Who Owns What? (or: American Company or No?)

For today's posting, we're going to play a fun trivia game of sorts..

We are going to provide you the name of a popular product and you have to guess whether the company that makes or distributes the item is a US corporation or foreign

OK.. so put on your thinking caps and lets' begin..

1)  Budweiser beer

~  Foreign; owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev N.V., which is based in Leuven, Belgium
2)  Miller lite beer

~ Foreign; owned by a joint venture between SABMiller (headquartered in London) and Molson Coors Brewing Company (Canada) who distributes Coors products

3)  Alka-Seltzer

~  Foreign; owned by Bayer Schering Pharma AG (Germany)  * Interesting sidenote: Bayer marketed heroin in 1895 and invented aspirin in 1897

4)  AMC movie theaters

~  Foreign;  the theaters chain is now owned by and is a subsidiary of Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group.  They also recently acquired the British yacht builder Sunseeker International for USD $500 million in exchange for a 92% share.

5)  Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream

~ Foreign; the two hippies sold their company to British-Dutch Unilever

How are you doing so far?  Let's continue..

6)   7-Eleven

~  Foreign;  the holier than thou convenience store chain that refuses to sell Playboy is now owned by the Japanese company, Seven & I Holdings

7)  Woman’s Day Magazine

~ Foreign:  now owned by by the French company,  Hachette Filipacchi Médias, S.A..  They also own the magazines Elle, Car & Driver and Road & Track
8)  Purina

~ Foreign:  now owned by the Swiss company, Nestle

9)  Gerber baby food

~ Foreign:  now owned by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant, Novartis which also makes Lamisil, Ritalin, Maalox, Excedrin, Ex-lax, Prevacid, Bufferin, Vagistat and No-Doz among many many other brands..

10)  Firestone

~ Foreign: now owned by the Japanese Bridgestone Corporation

Are you starting to see a pattern to this Q&A game yet??
11)  Citgo

~ Foreign:  now owned by the government of Venezuela

12)  French’s Mustard

~ Foreign:  now owned by Reckitt Benckiser, a British conglomerate with other brands including Air-Wick, Lysol, Clearasil, Calgon, Mucinex, Vanish, Lanacane and Durex condoms among many many others...

13)  Frigidaire

~ Foreign:  now owned by Sweden’s AB Electrolux; also includes Eureka, Westinghouse and Philco among others..
14)  Trader Joes

~ Foreign:  owned by German billionaires Karl and Theo Albrecht; they also own the Aldi discount supermarket chain.   Theo passed away in 2010; Karl is 93 yrs old..

15)  Dial soap

~ Foreign:  now owned by Henkel KGaA, based in Dusseldorf, Germany.  They also make Purex laundry detergent among others..

16)  Sunglass Hut

~ Foreign:  now owned by Italian eyewear seller Luxottica Group.  They also own Sears Optical, Target Optical, Pearlevison and LensCrafters among others..
Try comparing prices for glasses...

They also create eyewear under licence for Brooks Brothers, Donna Karan, RayBan, Ralph Lauren, Chanel, Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Prada, Tiffany, Stella McCartney, Versace, Verses and Armani among others..

Most of these brands have been acquired within the last decade..

Pretty pathetic...

And its only going to get worse mainly because people love brands yet have no clue or care as to the source.